By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
"I told them I wasn't going to let anything happen where they could take me away again," Caldwell says.
But freedom alone only took Caldwell so far. Before his first Thanksgiving, he was struck with a toothache. He went to the dentist, but it was going to be $99 just to have a dentist look at the afflicted tooth. He pointed to the tooth he wanted removed. He didn't need a check-up and didn't have much money. The pain was excruciating. The NCIP had to organize free dental care through a board member to get the tooth pulled.
He started to get an appreciation of how uniquely unprepared he was to take care of himself.
Caldwell was a visitor from the past. The first time he'd laid eyes on a cellphone in prison was in 2007. He had only rudimentary computer skills. Kaneb gave him her father's old laptop. He called one day to ask her to remind him how to check his email. She began to explain, but he was lost. He didn't know what the address bar was, or the back button. On another occasion Kaneb gave Caldwell a CD of his exhibits to go over for a suit they were filing. He called her soon after because the disc didn't work. He'd put it in his DVD player.
There was no escape in sight for Caldwell from the stories that were governing his life. He had his truth, the story that freed him, and their truth, the story that locked him away.
Cobbs' death had sped up Caldwell's release in 2011. But with a new trial impossible, the city could claim his release was all luck. The city was free from ever having to consider his side of the story.
"I just think it needs to be clear that there was no finding that this defendant was innocent," said San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming on the day of Caldwell's release.
For the city, it had what it still tried to stress was a sound conviction overturned merely by the convenient excuse of ineffective counsel.
"[Caldwell] has been gaming the system all his life and continues to do so now," says Sean Connolly, a lawyer for the San Francisco City Attorney's office tasked with defending the officers involved. "This is not a case about an innocent man wrongly convicted. This is about a murderer who got off on a technicality."
NCIP disagrees, vehemently. As Starr sees it, "Constitutional rights are not a technicality."
Both sides claim confidence in their version of what happened that night. The Northern California Innocence Project and Caldwell think that the overwhelming weight of the new evidence, against what was suspect testimony from Cobbs, gives them a case of which they are certain.
"Although once you're in front of a jury, it is really anyone's guess," Starr says.
In April 2012, Caldwell, through the NCIP, filed a civil suit for unspecified damages against the City and County of San Francisco, naming former homicide inspectors Art Gerrans, James Crowley, and Kitt Crenshaw, claiming that they'd built a case against Caldwell on the back of an unreliable witness.
Caldwell also filed a compensation claim with the California Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board, requesting the legally mandated $100 a day for time wrongfully served.
For Caldwell, getting compensated isn't about vengeance and it can't make right the time he served for something he says he didn't do. He needs it to build a life and to support a family. His adult life was taken from him, he says. He lost the opportunity to build a life.
Personal injury and tragedy only compounded this. Toward the end of 2011, Caldwell was rocked by the sudden death of his friend Danny Milton, his sister's partner and Caldwell's primary source of financial support.
At the start of 2012, Caldwell got a job at a recycling plant, desperate to take on some of the economic load. At the recycling plant, Caldwell's back, weakened by two decades of physical labor in prison, gave out on him. He had a bulging disc.
Caldwell moved to Sacramento with his girlfriend, Pamela Haynes, and her young daughter. The three of them moved in with his dad in Sacramento, where, after developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Caldwell found himself unable to work at all.
Caldwell's opponents remain unimpressed.
"I don't know anybody who beat a case on appeal who didn't immediately stand on the courthouse steps and say that it was a terrible miscarriage of justice and could he please have several million dollars," says the case's original prosecutor, Al Giannini, now a semi-retired attorney for the San Mateo District Attorney's Office.
Caldwell got lucky, Giannini thinks. He should walk away. Craig Martin's subsequent disbarring in 2009 had created a "problem in retrospect we couldn't get around."
Tasked with defending the city's coffers in a civil suit and the officers involved (all of whom declined to comment until litigation had been dealt with), Sean Connolly supports Cobbs. She had a bird's-eye view of the crime scene and recalled Caldwell and the shooting with "exacting detail and certainty."
Both Giannini and Connolly concede that it comes down to Cobbs versus the new witnesses. They can't both be telling the truth. The stories of the new witnesses, while displaying small discrepancies, align with Caldwell's alibis presented at trial, naming Marritte Funches as the first shooter and Henry Martin as the man with the shotgun. All the statements raise questions about whether Cobbs could have even seen the second shooter. It tells a story that matches what Caldwell tried to tell officers from the outset.
Lady Justice wears a blindfold which is suppose to represents blind justice, handed-out without fear or favor regardless of race, creed or class. Are we still living in caves, how can something like this keep happening?
Jails, prisons, penitentiaries are all from the mind of the devil. They give nothing that is good. They destroy lives. Jesus communicated with the spirits in prison when he laid his life down for us. King James Version of 1 Peter 3:19 by:also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; God did not create jails to give guilt. Jesus who is the Father seeks to free people that are in prison.
It's seems as if we are.....it's happening all over....I just witnessed/experIenced the exact same ordeal with my son's father. I pray it doesn't take 20 years to prove his innocence....